Book Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Hardcover: 470 Pages

Series: Gone With the Respiration #1

Publisher: Del Rey

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Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie? 

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses. 

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.”

I loved this book! I can honestly say, the word “love” started to lose all it’s meaning, that’s how many times I kept saying it while reading Dearly, Departed. It was fantastic! What can I say? First of all, I love – there it is again – zombies. Zombies are friggin cool, man.

Whether they look like this:

Walking Dead zombies are pretty f*cking badass!

or this:

How I imagine Nora would look like as a zombie.

Habel didn’t add anything particularly new to her zombie mythology, or lore, if you will. Dead people, reanimated, some hold on to their personalities and minds, while other came back as snarling, dangerous animals. So yeah, dead, decaying, human beings, fact which made for some preeetty awkward scenes throughout the book, but we’ll come back to that later.

Habel’s dystopia (post-apocalyptic? futuristic world?) is set in 2195, in a world that is irrevocably changed. Entire countries wiped off the Earth, new strains of diseased that killed loads of people, a second American Civil War, everything culminating with the eruption of the Yellowstone volcano. The people left standing formed New Victoria, a very high-tech nation, modeled after the Victorian era: appearances, behavior, clothes, everything. Old beliefs and society rules.

I didn’t notice any inconsistencies in the world-building, which was very impressive and thoroughly done. It’s a fascinating world, combining the new with the old. However, the setting of the scene and long explanations, detailing this world, made for a slow and heavy start, with the actual plot and action kicking in later. But yanno what? The background info was necessary and with that out-of-the-way, and the actual plot showing itself, it’s an exciting, action packed and engaging read.

Habel’s storytelling capabilities aside, I think she made an exceptional job of fleshing-out her characters, making them real enough and interesting enough to keep you invested even in secondary characters. Which brings me to the only thing I hated about this book: the different POV.

Why, why? For the love of flesh-eating zombies, why?! Of course, I can understand why different POV’s were needed, 5 of them, for fucks sake, but ugh! I am not a fan of a gazillion POVs, not even when I can acknowledge they serve a purpose. Even though they were necessary, I sort of lost momentum because of them. Or I would be finish a chapter and something reaaally interesting was going down, I’d turn the page and..well, shit, different POV, different place, different things happening! It made me dislike some characters, like Pamela and Wolfe. Though I suppose it’s okay, since Wolfe was an asshole anyway.

Yes, I can assure you all the profanities are needed, it’s how I cope!! Anyways..

I did like the fact that you could see the difference between the different voices of the characters: Nora, scared at first, Bram, funny and tentative in his relationship with her, and so on. Most of the times, not being able to distinguish one character from another, is a HUGE issue when it comes to different POV narratives, so I was glad it wasn’t the case here.

I loved Nora, for being able to think for herself, not blindly doing what she was “supposed” to do, being strong and loveable. And my favorite character was Bram, definitely. Funny and sweet, loyal and a total badass. Nice enough for a dead guy.

Back to those awkward moments I mentioned before. I actually had no problems whatsoever with the idea of zombie kisses. No siree.

I guess my threshold for gross is sky-high? I’ve read other reviews and noticed people are grossed out by the romance element between the two main characters, but that wasn’t a problem for me.

I do wonder where Habel is planning on taking this relationship after book 2, but at least she wrote her characters mature enough as to know what to expect and how to deal with the situation. Another thing I liked, they actually acknowledge, whatever their feelings, it isn’t normal.

Overall, I really, really, reaaally…enjoyed Dearly, Departed. It’s a fun, smart, riveting and unique story, with a lot of different genre elements that Habel somehow blends together really well. And it’s got zombies, cooome on!



““Oh, goody,” Chas whispered. “I hate going to the doctor. I’d rather be back underground in he water playing Ophelia.”

“What about mold,” Tom reminded her. “Fuzziness on a girl is never attractive.”

“Oh, now that’s just gross.””

“Time to face the music. “No. I’m done.” Occasionally, being a surprisingly healthy dead guy can come back to bite you.”



I’ve been approved for the ARC for Dearly, Beloved (Gone With the Respiration#2) through Netgalley, so expect the review soon.


4 thoughts on “Book Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

  1. I’ve raised myself (much to my mother’s dismay) on video games, which, apart from leaving me socially awkward, pasty white, and half-blind, has left me with a healthy hatred for the undead (vampires and zombies and other things in need of severe trauma), so I must say the premise does put me off based on the romance aspect (rotting flesh? Eww gross!). But I also like sci-fi, and if there’s still destroying of the undead then I’m down! So I’ll look out for it 🙂

    • Haha, brilliant. I’m with you there. I’m also a HUGE fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead and for a while there, everytime they touched/kissed/so on, I couldn’t help imagine him as one of those zombies. Yes, eww! But in the end, the romance really is sweet and cute.
      Also, the book has the good zombies and the bad ones. The bad ones get it!

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